I love dance, yoga, stretching, walking, and climbing. I am happiest when I do one of those things almost daily. My body feels best that way; I sleep better; I’m more cheerful. Unfortunately, whenever I get tired or busy or sick, moving my body is the first habit to go and the last one to come back — which means most of the time, I’m not moving much at all. It’s frustrating on the basic animal level, even without the oppressive societal pressure to be as fit as possible.
I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get moving, though I have many theories (not all of them self-compassionate). It might be a high sensitivity thing; when life is a lot, new stimulus is unwelcome. I don’t like the sun, and getting outside with Owl is its own kind of workout. I do seem to move more slowly than many people my age, get tired more easily, have less flexibility; this makes me feel inadequate and feelings of inadequacy always make me want to give up. I wish it weren’t such a struggle.
My baseline for the past few months has been tension and fatigue, but in an optimistic moment I registered for a two-hour workshop on dance freedom (the description was vague) led by an instructor I didn’t know. As the day approached I wondered if it had been a mistake. But it was so good. We spent a lot of time with our eyes closed, moving subtly, guided by our instincts. We also moved fast and big, rolling freely on the floor, making eye contact with our fellow dancers (there were thirty of us). I was stunned that my body could be so dynamic when I had spent every day of the previous week feeling sluggish and ashamed for it.
How did one workshop reverse months of lethargy? The instructor was inspiring, the collective energy magical, but there was also something about having no expectations for performance, ability, or even duration (as it turned out, we improvised for forty-five minutes straight). It felt like anything I did would be right — which is exactly the opposite of how I usually feel about my body in a “fitness” context — and that also made it my space to just do whatever I wanted, a rare and precious gift.
After the workshop I decided I was going to have a new movement practice and it would just be a micro-habit: I would make sure, every night after Owl goes to bed, that my favorite stretching/movement space stays clear of toys and other clutter, so that I can move around whenever I feel the desire to do so. That is all. No requirements for what kind of movement or how long, or even whether I do any movement at all. I’m just keeping the floor clear. And that’s already been making a difference, reminding me that wherever I am right now is fine, and joyful intuitive movement is always within my reach.
PS. This little animation brings me so much delight. Make sure you listen with the sound on.
PPS. I’ve also started a weekly parent-and-toddler dance class with Owl, so that’s keeping the magic going.